Sparkling Dîner en Blanc

Two white fox faces swirl through a magically intimate tableau.  Did you really see them?

You glance back, but the Delphic duo have vanished again into the late summer hues, momentarily caught in an ethereal theatre of grace and elegance.

Over there! You look again, across a whimsical other-worldly ether of snowy white wonder and see the geishas, white-gowned and exotic.

All the senses are aroused.

The reflections of the day’s final rays heighten  the air of romance. The wafting breeze brushes the scene with a soft affection; faces are aglow in the golden light.

In New Zealand, Le Dîner en Blanc Tauranga is par excellence, lifting the city into a sphere of vibrancy and cultural convivial grace, whilst igniting a love of the art of celebrating being together.

Dîner en Blanc Tauranga is returning on Saturday, March 9, after creating successful and fabulous dining experiences over each of the last two years.

Held in only one other city in New Zealand – Auckland – the Tauranga event and its organisers have recently received a significant stamp of approval from the international overseeing organisation.

“We’ve been given a three-year contract,” says co-organiser Kimberley Cleland, “whereas for the previous two years it’s been one-year contracts.

“So they are very happy with how everything is going in Tauranga.”

It’s a major coup for both Kimberley and  Rachelle Duffy, who have teamed up to produce  and host the event.

Le Dîner en Blanc concept began in Paris in 1988, when Frenchman François Pasquier simply invited a group of friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne, as he had insufficient space at his home to cater for them. He asked them to dress in white so they could find each other.

This celebration of the French ‘art of living’ has captured the imagination of people across the globe, uniting thousands of guests dressed entirely in white for a chic and fun pop-up dinner in more than 80 cities and 35 countries.

For the event, guests are instructed to dress in stylish white and bring a gourmet picnic, a lovely table also decorated in white, and folding chairs.  

From these simple specifications, however, guests step themselves into a world of magical theatre, creating elegant expressions of creative splendour that fascinate and allure - their tables graced with lavish displays of flowers and fine food.

With weeks to prepare, participants have time to  go ‘all out’ and be as luxurious and extravagant as they please.

“We’re always overwhelmed and think the level of creativity that goes into the outfits, table settings and food is amazing,” says Kimberley. “They use the event as an opportunity to extend their creativity.”

The foxes and geishas, surprisingly, were not part of the booked entertainment. They were guests, transformed into splendid versions of themselves, enhancing their own experience and the experience of those around them.

Why do wonderful things happen around the simple act of eating and drinking together?

“What gets me every time is that the only thing that you’re doing similarly is wearing white,” says Kimberley. “But it seems to break down barriers really quickly. People are really open and friendly, and eating together is a base human pleasure.”

The dining starts with the tradition of napkin waving, and the lighting of sparklers signals the beginning of guests mingling.

“At the first event I went to as an attendee, we ended up sharing food with those around us and chatting about our lives. Because we’re seated at a table of fifty that we don’t know, it gives us an opportunity to meet new people.”

The number of guests registering for this year’s dinner is already passing last’s years, which was held on the Tauranga waterfront.

The previous year’s event was held at Pilot Bay, and there’s a heightened anticipation as people spend time preparing in advance.

“Because people have made a lot of effort to come, they really do enjoy themselves,” says Kimberley.

“What makes it unique to other events and what we really love is the element of surprise.”

The secrecy around the location, not knowing who will be performing on the night, and not knowing what’s going to happen on arrival are all elements that excite and build suspense.  

White angels on stilts, lush décor and impressively good live music have created an opulent, extravagant carnival fiesta where laughter and conversation has flowed freely. This year the organisers have choreographed more surprises.

“We have a prominent local artist performing this year, which is exciting,” says Kimberley, with a soft smile playing across her face as she keeps the performer’s identity a secret.

For those who don’t wish to bring their own tables and chairs, there is the option to hire table and chair packages through the event’s e-store.

Participants can also pre-order a gourmet picnic hamper from Kex Kitchen and pre-order their wine.

The event organisers have partnered with Farmer Auto Village Audi, Palm Springs Papamoa and Lanson Champagne, and are receiving support and sponsorship from local businesses and individuals.

To register, go to: and receive an invitation to purchase tickets.

For those who don’t attend as a guest, they may be surprised to come across the splendid spectacle of nearly 1000 people all dressed in white, converging on a public space in Tauranga on March 9.

Photo: Richard Robinson Photography

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